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The Battle for the Democratic Party

[TIME for July 17, 1972]

(TIME, July 17, 1972) -- He got his start in politics passing out leaflets for John Kennedy. Four years later he worked to help re-elect Lyndon Johnson. In 1968 he was out on the streets for Robert Kennedy. In this campaign, George McGovern was his man. Working out of shabby walk-up headquarters, he and other McGovern amateurs canvassed Brooklyn's 13th District to saturation, blanketed the neighborhoods from Kings Highway to Coney Island with pamphlets and, on New York's primary day last month, swept into party power, defeating one of New York's more redoubtable Democratic bosses in the process. So this week Kenneth Elstein comes to Miami Beach to collect his delegate's badge and claim a green folding chair at the Democratic National Convention. He is 24 years old.

What is remarkable about Kenneth Elstein is how unremarkable his age was to be in the convention hall. In one of the most fascinatingly improbable assemblages in the history of American politics, the young are everywhere. One survey shows 23% of the delegates under 30 (v. only 2.6% in 1968), and McGovern estimates that nearly 500 of his are in that category. Elstein is thus a symbol of an astonishing new force in the Democratic Party: the young politicians come of age. It is a force that may save -- or sunder -- the Democrats. It may galvanize the election -- or the defeat -- of George McGovern. It contains the potential for a struggle that may make the issue of Miami Beach even larger than the selection of a candidate. What is at stake is the Democratic Party's future and its political soul.

The battle lines are clearly drawn. The McGovern young can argue with considerable justice that America's alienated youth were invited to work within the system, and (BAM! POW! SPLAT!) they did. Armed with the reform rules that McGovern helped to formulate, the young legions this year shattered political assumptions and shut down party machines that had been grinding on for decades. Through New Hampshire's bitter months, through the endlessly tedious precinct caucuses and state conventions, they mimeographed and telephoned and pounded door to door, living on peanut butter and jelly and spending their nights in sleeping bags on someone else's living-room floor. Their numbers grew with success; duty became dream became destiny; the impossible turned possible turned probable. Often with scant direction or help from the candidate himself, they built from the ground up the best political organization in the U.S. today.

The party's old guard does not deny that the new young pols beat them at their own game, but that does not keep them from resenting it -- sometimes bitterly and unfairly. Said Rhode Island State Chairman Lawrence McGarry: "McGovern's got draft dodgers going to Miami." The list of party veterans and major officeholders who were shoved out of their delegate seats in Miami Beach reads like a who's who of the Democrats. Said Delton Houtchens, the Missouri state Democratic chairman who went to Miami Beach as a delegate-at-large: "I came through politics and worked my way up. We didn't do it overnight. These kids in Miami will be there for a lark, and that'll be the end of it." Beyond the anguish of power lost, however, many pros contend that they still know best what is good for the party and the country -- and McGovern is not it. Or so it seemed to them before Miami. Later, with the campaign ahead and Nixon as the common enemy, some measure of party unity might become possible.

As the 35,000 delegates, alternates, newsmen and other observers descended on Miami Beach last week, the battle between insurgents and regulars was being fought furiously and appropriately on the issue of who would be the delegates from California and Illinois. All week long, the credentials question caromed from one court to another, leaving McGovern's delegate count an open question. The crucial issue centered on the ownership of California's 271 delegates. McGovern captured all of them on June 6 -- according to the state's winner-take-all rule - - a rule curiously at variance with the spirit of reform. In the Democratic Credentials Committee last month, a stop-McGovern coalition led by Hubert Humphrey's agents pushed through an after-the-fact change in the rules, parceling out the California delegation proportionately -- a move that threatened to cost McGovern 151 delegates and prevent his victory on the first ballot.

Early last week, a federal district court judge in Washington upheld the Credentials Committee not only on the California question but also on the issue of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's 58 uncommitted delegates -- a bloc that had been successfully unseated by a McGovernite challenge charging that Daley had violated the reform guidelines. Then, two days later, the U.S. appeals court in Washington affirmed the judgment on the Daley delegation but ruled against the Credentials Committee on the question of California. With that, George McGovern's delegate count shot back up again to within a few votes of the 1,509 he needed for nomination. Expelling 151 McGovern delegates from California, said the court, was "inconsistent with fundamental principles of due process."

Not so, said the Supreme Court, called into conference to decide the case. In a 6-3 vote, the court granted a stay of the appeals court ruling, contending that the matter was for the convention to judge. That in effect sanctioned the proportional allotment of the California delegates that the Credentials Committee had voted, and McGovern's total strength coming into the convention dropped once again by 151 votes. Thus the issue would have to be fought out on the convention floor.

While all this was going on, the candidates were savoring the lull before the final battle. Humphrey retreated to his house in Waverly, Minn., where he puttered with his Model T Ford and insisted: "I'm the best man to beat Nixon." Muskie vacationed with his family at Kennebunk Beach in Maine, keeping in touch with his staff by telephone. Edward Kennedy watched events from Cape Cod, though there were hints he might come to Miami Beach to help the cause of party unity.

George Wallace, gaunt and subdued after almost eight weeks in the hospital with gunshot wounds, still paralyzed below the waist, made good his determination to get to Miami Beach and see what ideological leverage he could apply with his 373 delegates. It has been for him a grim and courageous convalescence. After appearing at a Mass in Maryland and reading the 23rd Psalm, Wallace flew in an Air Force jet supplied by Richard Nixon to Montgomery, Ala., where, seated in his wheelchair behind a low, bulletproof lectern he delivered an airport speech, a wan version of his old campaign rousers. Then he flew on to Miami. All the while, a stop-McGovern coalition led by Arkansas' Wilbur Mills continued its last-minute efforts. A small Washington group of strategists bent on heading off the South Dakotan included Humphrey Aide Stan Bregman, Muskie's Berl Bernhard, Wallace's Billy Joe Camp and the ALF-CIO's Al Barkan.

Acrimony. At his summer house in Maryland, McGovern tended his swimming pool and delegate arithmetic. At one point he paid a second courtesy call on George Wallace, presumably to feel out the Alabaman's intentions. Occasionally McGovern spoke apocalyptically of the consequences if his nomination were "literally stolen in a naked power play." He did not discount running as a third-party candidate. Said McGovern: "I don't think people have fully assessed how the party could destroy itself if the reform process is denied after all that has happened in American politics these past few years."

Many regulars, humbled by the McGovern young and suddenly astonished by their own impotence, already see ruination for the party. St. Louis Dentist Martin Greenberg, for four years the Democratic chairman of St. Louis County, found himself outnumbered by McGovernites in the spring caucuses and defeated for delegate. Last week he contemplated the prospect of a McGovern nomination and said dolefully: "Unless the party comes to its senses, it will destroy all of us. The acrimony and dissension will be suicidal. The disaster this fall will not only be felt on the national ticket but on statewide Democratic tickets as well."

Some anti-McGovernites regard the young insurgents as a wave of barbarians. After he was defeated for delegate in Montana, Jim Murry, an AFL-CIO official, mused angrily: "I'll be a son of a bitch! I'm only 37, and I've always been a liberal. And there I was being fought by the McGovern people, being made out as some kind of old conservative. Me, who has been called a Communist! Old! A conservative! Christ!" Some of McGovern's more abrasively doctrinaire followers persistently offended the party's regulars during state conventions this spring, demanding platform planks in favor of legalized marijuana, abortions on demand and homosexual marriage. Observed California Pollster Don Muchmore: "McGovern has got a great issue with alienation, but I wonder if he knows the cause. The people who are alienated are the ones who don't want pot, who don't want abortion, who don't want to pay one more cent in taxes."

Above all, many regulars are seized by the simple dread that a McGovern nomination would mean a November defeat of Goldwater proportions, a debacle that might cost the party scores of state offices round the nation as well as control of the U.S. Congress. For one thing, some labor leaders, including AFL-CIO President George Meany, were hinting that they might remain neutral this fall if the choice is between McGovern and Nixon. Teamsters President Frank Fitzsimmons has been noticeably friendly to Nixon. Henry Hall Wilson, an old pro who was once Lawrence O'Brien's aide in the Kennedy White House, reflected recently on the McGovern phenomenon: "You know, the people are on a binge."

That is a matter of interpretation. It can also be observed that McGovern's legions of the young, the force that propelled him to Miami Beach with at least 1,400 delegates, are some of the soberest and most serious practitioners of politics in the U.S. today. Whether or not McGovern is the nominee, his aide Fred Dutton is probably right when he observes that with the 18-year- olds voting and the young elaborately schooled in the art of politics, "elections will never be the same. The shape of the ballpark has changed, and so have the rules of the game."

The McGovern forces rose, in part, out of the wreckage of the Eugene McCarthy movement in 1968. The next year, the Democrats' reform commission, originally chaired by McGovern, began its long, intricate task of overhauling the party's structure, changing the rules of delegate selection to open it to the poor, the young, to women, to blacks and other minorities. At the same time, the 26th Amendment abruptly enfranchised some 11 million Americans aged 18 to 21.

Mystique. McCarthy, obeying some inner music of his own, faded into what he liked to call his acedia. But in George McGovern, the young activists found a willing repository for their ideals and ambitions. His opposition to the war was early and insistent. If he seemed somewhat colorless, that was all right; the movement was the thing, not necessarily the leader.

There was of course vast skepticism and discouragement in the early days. Says one McGovern worker: "If you were a `realist' then, you decided that McGovern didn't have a chance; you went to work for Muskie." New Hampshire was crucial. From Yale and Harvard, from New York and Vermont, the young trekked to the state to ring doorbells and organize -- 500 of them each weekend for six weeks, 2,000 for the weekend before the March 7 primary. "Without question," says Edward O'Donnell, McGovern's national youth director, "it was those seven weekends that turned the campaign around. We really had to pull teeth to get those kids up there." But enough of them came to enable McGovern's volunteers to canvass 200,000 in the state.

McGovern lost New Hampshire to Muskie -- 37.6% to 47.8% -- but because he came so much closer than expected, his showing there may have been the key to all his later success. The volunteers started flowing in. Tim Boggs, 23, dropped out of the University of Wisconsin to work for $50 a week as McGovern's state youth coordinator; he registered 13,000 students at the university in Madison, and 10,000 of them voted for McGovern in the Wisconsin primary. Larry Diamond, 21, provided 200 volunteers for McGovern for Northern California and got 5,000 Stanford students to the polls.

"This campaign has a soul of its own," says McGovern Campaign Manager Gary Hart, 34. "The volunteers don't want it to become just another political campaign. There is a mystique about it." Some fascinatingly complex psychologies were involved. Said Patrick Johnson, 25, a probation officer and delegate from California's Calaveras County: "What this nomination and election represent is a test of whether the liberal and the young are willing to win. There are a lot of people involved in the campaign who have a sort of suicidal urge to lose. The reason is that in losing you can prove you're right, because in losing you never have to see your man compromise." A McGovern delegate from Georgia, Beatrice Smith, 32, disagreed. "People who see youth as monolithic are crazy," she said. "Number 1, they are pragmatic. They understand the need for compromise faster than some liberals." Observed Ed Rogoff, McGovern's 20-year-old New York campaign manager: "The people in the campaign this year are more proud of their professionalism than their morality."

Spadework. There is no doubt that the volunteers -- young, nimble, dedicated -- gave McGovern an enormous edge in both primary and nonprimary states. In primary states, McGovern headquarters swarmed with them, boys and girls in jeans and sneakers, cranking the mimeographs, telephoning voters. In the nonprimary states, the McGovern zealots had the advantage of understanding the new reform rules and how to use them. They organized early, often stunned the regulars by their success at precinct caucuses and state conventions. In Iowa, for example, McGovern's brilliant young aides Rick Stearns and Gene Pokorny crisscrossed the state in 1970 to establish an organization, starting with only a list of 15 people who had contributed to the McGovern campaign. By last January, 2,000 volunteers were working the state for McGovern. When the state caucus met, McGovern took 18 of Iowa's 46 delegates, the most of any candidate.

While Edmund Muskie organized the courthouses, Stearns' volunteers concentrated on the precincts. In Kansas, Stearns recruited college students; in one district, they started working simply with lists of members of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Unitarian and Methodist Churches. They won 17 delegates. "No wonder the Democrats can't carry Kansas," says Stearns, a 27-year-old Rhodes scholar. "There's something wrong with a party organization if they can't prevent a delegate sweep by a bunch of college kids."

The party reforms worked well for McGovern. Moreover, the other candidates never competed effectively in the nonprimary states. Muskie's strategy was based on the assumption that he would have the nomination wrapped up after winning the Wisconsin primary. Humphrey entered the campaign too late to develop an adequate organization anywhere. But McGovern's principal asset was the willingness to do the exhausting spadework in state after state.

Kenneth Elstein in outlook and experience is in many ways typical of the young McGovernites. A high school math teacher, Elstein began his political experiment last October when he read a short item in the New York Times describing a professor's effort to put together a McGovern slate. Elstein volunteered. Strictly obeying the new party guidelines, Elstein and the other McGovernites help open caucuses to decided their slate, which included Elstein and seven others.

They dispatched squads of youngsters to sell McGovern buttons on the streets. "Those kids literally wouldn't let people go by without buying a button," says Elstein's wife Barbara, a systems analyst. "We raised $500 that way." Elstein walked up and down the Coney Island boardwalk, interrupting the afternoon dozes of elderly Jewish voters in straw hats. "Hi," he said, extending his hand. "I'm Ken Elstein, and I'm running as a McGovern delegate." He stood for hours at Brooklyn El stations, bullhorn in hand. Comedian Sam Levenson, who lives in nearby Rockaway, was enlisted to tell his jokes at fund-raising parties.

Support. One difficult problem in the heavily Jewish district was persuading voters that McGovern was not, as rumored, opposed to aid for Israel. When the votes were counted, the McGovern slate had swept the district, Elstein running third with 23,591 votes. The top candidate of Brooklyn Democratic Leader Meade Esposito received only 11,890.

For all the McGovern delegates' reputation for intransigence, Elstein is no ideologue. "We want to win in November," he says. "All of our effort becomes useless if Nixon wins, so we've got to go to all possible sources of support -- the labor unions, the regular organization." But he adds: "The thing that really gets us is that when we were elected, the regulars all over the country say they should get to go to Miami because they've served the party all these years. That's the problem. They haven't served the party. They spend all their energies fighting us."

Like many McGovern workers, Elstein got into the campaign as a means not only of expressing himself against the war but also in hopes of revitalizing the political process. "Everything is rotting away, and we've got to do something about it," he says. "You have 200 million people in this country and an incredible sense among them that they don't really count, that they don't have any influence."

Service. Elstein was born in 1948 -- the year that Harry Truman, amid predictions of Democratic ruin, defeated Thomas E. Dewey. He hopes there will be parallels this year. The son of a retired high school history and economics teacher, Ken grew up politically aware, listening to dinner-table conversation in his parents' two-family house in the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn. He played stickball, batted an even .000 (no hits in 14 at-bats) in his first year in the Little League. In 1968 he graduated from Harpur College, part of the State University of New York at Binghamton, where he majored in mathematics. Partly to avoid the draft, he decided to become a teacher, working as a trainee in an all-black school in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Today he is on a leave of absence to work on his Ph.D., writing a doctoral thesis on algebraic topology, dealing with the property of geometric figures that, like rubber bands, do not change under bending or stretching. "What good is topology?" he says. "It's a pure field of learning. What good is Beethoven?"

His interest in politics is entirely practical. Recalling that his forebears emigrated from Poland, Elstein observes, "When they came in from Ellis Island, they needed jobs and homes. Often the first person to help them was the local Democratic politician. The party provided a bridge between the ordinary citizen and his government. But as time went by, the Democratic organization grew remote." In this analysis, the practitioners of the new politics are arguing in effect that the old politics really is not old enough, having lost the traditional function of service to people. Elstein believes that would change with McGovern.

Elstein's story is duplicated, with variations, in hundreds of other McGovern delegates and workers:

  • Donna Eddy, 19, a black student at the University of Wisconsin, got her first taste of politics distributing Humphrey leaflets in 1968. Last September, she went to work for McGovern after she heard him address a local Young Democrats meeting. She began by writing letters and stuffing envelopes in the Milwaukee headquarters for the Wisconsin primary and soon found herself devoting at least 40 hours a week to the task. After Wisconsin, she decided to let her studies slide and followed the McGovern campaign across the country, to Ohio, to California, to New York. "In California," she says, "I slept in a church a few nights and then stayed with a Republican family in Whittier. That really was a blast -- being right there in Nixon's homeland." This week, she was to be on the convention floor as a Wisconsin delegate-at- large.
  • Maryellen Fleming, 28, is a seven-year veteran of political causes, especially women's rights in Cincinnati, where she is an officer of the local chapter of the National Organization of Women. She was elected as an Ohio delegate in May. She takes the McGovern phenomenon calmly, seeing it neither as a vindication of "the system" or its last chance to accomplish good. "The system," she says, "will be around for a long time. It's a dynamic, always changing thing. What's happening now is that the McGovern people have made the changes in it."
  • Keith Thompson, at 18 the youngest Ohio delegate, disagrees. "If the nomination is stolen," he said last week, "then it may be the last chance for the system." At the same time, Thompson, who has been working in Ohio campaigns ever since he watched the Chicago debacle on television four years ago, would not object to McGovern's drifting to the right in order to build a larger constituency. "We want to elect a President," he said. He has nothing but contempt for Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman and their codes of manic anarchy. "Their philosophy of `Do It!' is laughable. They are hypocrites." Thompson is finding that politics and love can produce explosions. "I'm trying to convince my girl friend that she is really no less important than George McGovern," he said. "It's just a matter of priorities right now."
  • Sally Peil, 22, is a West Georgia College senior who went to Miami Beach as a delegate. Like her merchant parents, Sally was an ardent Nixon supporter four years ago. "The other day," she says, "I told my mother I've never been so disappointed with anything in my life as Nixon. She almost cried. She thinks I'm turning into a Communist." Since she became a politician, she says, "I'm watching every news program on TV, reading the papers every day." One problem after her election, Sally notes, is that "you get a lot of junk mail. You know, like, Peabody for Vice President, and from the Sanford people, and, uh, is there a Mills running? Yes, from somebody named Mills.'

Against the argument that McGovern could not possibly win in November, his men have insisted all along that besides an anti- Nixon restiveness in the land, the arithmetic of the new youth vote would be sufficient to carry him into the White House. Even before the convention, McGovern's strategists were planning a vast voter-registration drive aimed at signing up 18 million of the 25 million first-time voters.

Assuming McGovern's nomination, McGovern aides aimed to deploy an army of 100,000 young volunteers on July 20 to start registering. This effort, Dutton believes, "is the real sleeper" in the presidential politics of 1972. This is the first year, he notes, that a Supreme Court ruling is in effect allowing registration until within 30 days of Election Day; in past years it had to be done much earlier and it was difficult to generate political interest six months or more before an election. By Dutton's hopeful forecast, McGovern would get 13 million of the new youth votes, to 5,000,000 for Nixon. Considering the fact that Nixon won by only 500,000 votes in 1968, the McGovern planners thought they were going to the convention with a plausible argument.

Tidal Change. But there is a dispute as to whether the youth vote would be so overwhelmingly enthusiastic for McGovern -- or nearly as large as McGovern hopes. Psephologist Richard Scammon believes that the young will follow their parents' example, although he concedes that there is a verifiable tendency for the young to be more liberal than their elders by about 5% to 10%.

The proportion of registered voters among college students is much greater than among noncollege young, but it is of course dangerous for politicians to assume that "the young vote" is a college vote. About 70% of the potential new voters are noncollege. Richard Nixon's campaign workers are already busy courting the working young. Besides, for all the volatile possibilities of the youth vote, the average age of American voters is still 45 -- including 50 million people over 50, a group that tends to turn out in far greater numbers than those under 25.

Those looking forward to a McGovern nomination also had to deal with a kind of repugnance factor in his case: even assuming that he got 13 million of the young, how many other voters -- essentially workers and "ethnics" -- would his policies on defense, welfare and redistribution of wealth scare off? So far, a TIME-Yankelovich survey indicates that many voters see McGovern as a mainstream candidate. As the convention approached, some radicals were sneering at the idea of McGovern as a radical. Columnist Nicholas von Hoffman, for example, examined McGovern's ideas and found him "a wild-eyed moderate" whose proposals were only mildly reformist and, in the case of welfare, not very different from Richard Nixon's. Yet the question remained as to how many voters, including more conservative Democrats, would in due course perceive McGovern as a dangerous candidate and, in apprehension, pull their levers for Nixon.

Does the youth movement involve a vast tidal change in Democratic politics, a new direction for the party? Or is the McGovern phenomenon a brief eruption, a peculiar coincidence of a mobilizing issue -- the war -- and party reforms that the regulars simply did not understand in time? Historian James MacGregor Burns recalls the French youth who rioted in 1968 and then rather quickly fell into a cynical apathy. Says Burns: "You can't expect youth involvement indefinitely unless the system proves workable."

Fred Dutton, on the other hand, foresees an enduring role for the young, with new waves in 1976 and 1980. McGovern, he observes, is not the cause of it, is almost incidental to it. Involved are widely held beliefs, desires and hopes, a sense of the regeneration of the individual, a turning away from the traditional Democratic pattern of massive Governmental programs - - even though McGovern himself favors a number of such programs. Dutton argues that just as this wave is developing, Nixon is adopting Democratic Party precepts of the past. "The young are not preordained Democrats." Dutton argues, "but the Republicans are not doing much to grab them. Nixon is saving his own skin at the expense of the future of the Republican Party."

Eugene McCarthy understands the significance of what the young have become. "If we'd had the 18-year-olds in 1968," he says, "the outcome might have been different." Congressional Aide Mark Talisman thinks the young might become involved in an alliance with the elderly -- a fascinating possibility, since the under 30 and over 50 total more than 88 million voters. Says he: "The kids are sympathetic to Social Security increases, health programs and so on. I sense an Oriental feeling -- respect and sympathy for the very old."

In Miami Beach last week, there was a curious little drama that lent color to the theory. Although the residents there were initially horrified by the prospect of an Aquarian invasion, they have got to know one another, with the result that 50 senior citizens joined the Yippies in a march from the Convention Center, and another 16 gave the Yips a key to the city. This week Guru Allen Ginsberg was to perform a mammoth marriage ceremony symbolizing the union of the young and old. Said Yippie Allen Katzman: "Many of these senior citizens are really hip. They've been fighting the IRS and Social Security and the health-care system longer than we have." The Yippies, of course, are very different from the young activists inside the hall, but their gestures toward the elderly were intriguing.

If McGovern is the nominee, he may find that his young followers have higher and more doctrinaire expectations than any politician could sanely cope with. Political novices tend to forget that men seeking office traffic in promises that older, more cynical voters routinely expect will be ignored.

Whatever the future, the young, by their sheer numbers and in the galvanic example of the McGovern campaign, have profoundly altered the chemistry of American politics. Committed, surprisingly professional and potentially volatile, they are a huge, insistent presence in the Democratic Party, as irritating in the political family as a suddenly mature prodigy who has aggressive manners and uncomfortable ideas. To beat Nixon, the Democratic nominee must somehow bring the family intact through the battle of Miami Beach or, if that proves impossible, put it back together again before the real war is joined on Labor Day.

A TIME Citizens Panel: How Voters Assess George McGovern v. Richard Nixon

The emergence of Senator George McGovern as the Democratic front runner has been so swift that only recently have voters begun to appraise him with any great degree of familiarity. This is reflected by the TIME Citizens Panel, a group of 205 Americans chosen from a scientifically selected cross section of voting-age citizens and interviewed by the attitude-survey firm of Daniel Yankelovich Inc.

Not exactly a household word outside his native South Dakota and the U.S. Senate, McGovern at the outset of his campaign had to strive for the very basic accomplishment of making his name well and favorably known. That he has done in convincing fashion; the majority of panelists speak of him with the kind of open, easy freedom that indicates widespread recognition. Among Democratic panelists, the consensus is that McGovern is a likable, attractive candidate of indisputable stature. More important, panelists from both parties feel that he represents a broadly based constituency and not just a small radical minority. Most agree with Laura Kent, a writer-editor from Washington, D.C., who sees McGovern as "a man very much in the mainstream of American views." Despite charges that he is "the Goldwater of the left," only one panelist in ten considers McGovern a radical. The remainder are equally divided in describing him as either a liberal or a moderate/conservative.

That perception of McGovern is apparently based more on manner than matter; many panelists are uncertain about what precisely he stands for. Their differing views are revealed in the opinions of three groups of panelists:


The Senator's strong stand on ending the Vietnam War remains the most binding issue among his supporters. Surprisingly, however, half of McGovern's backers think that the Senator's own promised timetable for ending the war is impractical. Gerald Cooper, a Kenosha, Wis., schoolteacher, staunchly supports McGovern's antiwar position but says: "I don't know if he can end the war within 90 days. I'd like to see him try it, but I would give him a year."

McGovern's call for tax reforms is favored by a solid majority of all panelists. The danger he faces on this issue is that of overpromising, for most of the panelists equate the closing of loopholes for the rich with a lowering of the taxes of the average wage earner. Of all the Senator's programs, his welfare reform plan causes the most confusion. Panelists want to see the welfare "mess" straightened out, but they are dubious about the implications of a program they do not understand. "Some people need all the help they can get, but others are just freeloading," says Richard McDuffee, a chemical analyst from Little Rock, Ark. "If my tax dollars can help one family get what they really need, then I feel good, but there ought to be an option for those who want to work."


Three out of four Nixon supporters credit his trips to China and the Soviet Union as major, meaningful efforts to achieve peace. Most, like Janice Lehr, an Independent for Nixon, tend to feel that the President's decision to mine North Vietnam harbors and increase the bombing "took a lot of courage and showed we couldn't be pushed around." Consistent with their approval of the President's foreign policies, pro-Nixon panelists strongly oppose McGovern's proposal to reduce defense spending by $32 billion over three years. "In order to keep us a first-class nation," explains Harry Kaiser, a Flint, Mich., truck driver, "there's no way of cutting without affecting our status. Russia is already the No. 1 power."

Panelists who back Nixon tend to do so out of respect rather than affection. Says George Hunt, 87, a lifelong Republican from Madison, Wis.: "Nixon is a schemer, a quiet man who hasn't taken the public into his confidence completely. McGovern talks more freely, appealing to young people and frustrated people. But I've already decided who gets my vote: Nixon."


Conservative Democrats will pose a crucial problem for McGovern if he becomes the party's nominee. Like their counterparts in the rival party, they tend to view his stands on the war and some domestic problems as extreme. They make their sharpest break with the Senator on Vietnam, fearing a settlement that would amount to a defeat for the U.S., abandonment of the South Vietnamese or the sacrifice of American prisoners of war. They criticize his proposed cut in the defense budget as jeopardizing the nation's safety and reject his welfare reform program as an expensive giveaway to people who will not work.

These conservatives are more inclined to trust Nixon, a known quantity, than McGovern, whom they regard as a risky and untried leader. Says Mrs. Betty Brush, of San Jose, Calif.: "President Nixon has four years of experience, McGovern has not had any of consequence. I believe Nixon is just getting started; so why not let him finish? He's a good man." If the South Dakota Senator is to mount a serious challenge for the presidency, he will have to do a lot more to convince the party conservatives that now is the time for all good Democrats to come to the aid of their candidate.

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